Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email


Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

cultural association lisbon

Around 30 people crowd into a small bar in a quiet neighborhood in Lisbon for a film screening. It’s a Wednesday night, but the place, called Valsa, is full, despite the fact that it’s in a peripheral residential zone.

“Valsa” is the Brazilian translation of “waltz,” the Mittel-European folk dance that arrived to Brazil via Portugal in 1808. Danced in the elite salões of Rio de Janeiro, the term is now back on this side of the Atlantic, thanks to this tiny Brazilian-run association with one of the busiest cultural programs in the city.

cultural association lisbonMarina Oliveira and Mariana Serafim (Nika) founded this one-room bar and venue earlier this year, with the aim of hosting events, talks, classes, performances and screenings almost every night of the week. Whether there are five people or 50, the drinks and tapas are flowing, and the vibe homely. A miniscule corner of Valsa is also dedicated to independent music from the city, selling wares – mainly vinyl records – from Cafetra (who has an artist play here every month), record store Flur and DIY promoters Lovers & Lollypops.

Before opening, the duo was part of a collective that organized cultural events, whether parties, shows or concerts, in São Paulo. They started with a blog, dedicated to fine arts, music and culture in general; at that time they were also in the Brazilian city. When Marina came to Portugal to enroll in a Masters course on urban sustainability in 2016, she left it aside when she found this space, located on a tranquil corner of Penha da França. “We have many Brazilians who come here obviously, but locals too. Our neighbors don’t seem to mind us being here!”

Whether there are five people or 50, the drinks and tapas are flowing, and the vibe homely.

“We were looking for a place to rent out of the touristic center, but at the same time, not too far from it,” she adds. Penha da França is sandwiched between the more known neighborhoods of Graça and Arroios, and was until last year ignored by any kind of initiative, especially cultural. It is a hilly, elderly residential area with small local groceries, ordinary cafés and humble, mostly empty restaurants, but with access to two stunning viewpoints: Monte Agudo and the Miradouro da Penha de França, located right next to a 16th-century church that was built on a promise from sculptor António Simões, one of the few survivors of the battle of Alcácer Quibir (an early failed attempt by Portugal to conquer Morocco). The church was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake.

Though its main focus is hosting events, the bar serves up a minimal menu that represents a new generation of Lisbon food producers: bread from Micro Padaria, coffee from Fábrica Coffee Roasters, and draft artisanal beer from Musa brewery. Among the petiscos, there are tostas and local cheese platters served with homemade jams. The wine, chosen with advice from the long-running Lisbon wine bar Os Goliardos, also provides much-needed fuel for thought.

cultural association lisbon

The cultural offerings are certainly a mix. “Today we have a short movie made by Brazilian women; tomorrow there is a concert; we also have an open mic night, where people can read texts, poetry, etc,” Mariana says. And anyone is welcome to propose events.

This formerly bucolic area, which used to attract Lisboetas wishing to walk in the countryside, became in the 20th century a zone of villas operarias – residential complexes for the working class provided by their employers. Currently, Penha da França is undergoing another change, as marked by the appearance of hip spots like Valsa, which could not survive elsewhere in the city because of eye-watering rents. It’s a mixed blessing for those here: it’s almost certain that this neighborhood will be the next target for the city’s real estate expansion. For now, young people here have a place to gather.

Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser

loading map - please wait...

Valsa 38.729817, -9.131023 (Directions)
Address: Rua. da Penha de França 270
Telephone: +351 21 249 5720
Hours: Weds.-Sat. 4-10pm; Sun. 2-8pm; closed Monday & Tuesday

Related stories

June 6, 2017

Ushitora: Land of the Rising Suds

By Davey Young
Tokyo -- When Japan’s last shogun ceded control of the country in 1868 and a centuries-old closed-door policy was reversed, foreign influences on the country grew from a trickle to a steady stream. Foreign residents were confined to restricted living areas, one of the largest one being in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo. Capitalizing on…
May 22, 2017

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina: Up In Smoke

By Syma Tariq
Lisbon -- Though it’s an age-old method for preservation and flavor enhancement all over the world, the smoking of meat, fish, and cheese is not a notable tradition in southern Europe. In Portugal, in the old days, salt curing was more common – particularly for the national staple, cod. However, the presence of smoking traditions…
May 27, 2017

Bel’Empada: The Life of Pie

By Célia Pedroso
Lisbon -- These days, a good Portuguese-style savory pie is hard to find – even in Portugal. In a country with so many great examples, namely in Alentejo, Beiras or Trás-os-Montes, where pies (or empadas in Portuguese) are beautifully made, it’s disheartening that in Lisbon you’ll find mostly dull and dry versions or disappointing fillings…